Tuesday 21 November 2017

RTE considers U-turn on London bureau

Head of news admits closure ‘not ideal’

Kevin Bakhurst
Kevin Bakhurst
Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan

RTE may re-open its London bureau as soon as costs allow it to, the head of the broadcaster’s news division has said.

Speaking at a media conference in Dublin City University, RTE’s managing director for news and current affairs Kevin Bakhurst said there was “no better way” to capture the finer points of a story than to have a reporter on the ground. That was why the broadcaster had retained a Washington and Brussels correspondent even at a time of cost cutting, he claimed.

Longtime London correspondent Brian O’Connell left the organisation last year and he has not been replaced. The broadcaster now sends reporters over as required – something Mr Bakhurst made clear was not ideal.

“Sometimes I see RTE reporting from the UK and the different reporters we send bring different levels of sophistication to the story – that’s just the way it is.

“You need to have a starting point, and at some point we might have someone back in London if we can afford it because there is no better way to bring sophistication to a story.

“There is nothing to lend credibility to a story better than to have someone on the ground and with an in depth knowledge of the issues. That was why it was really important for RTE to maintain the regional offices around Ireland even when we were cutting costs. You need someone living in the community,” he added.

Mr Bakhurst added that RTE was no longer competing against just domestic players, but was now dealing with international competitors such as Sky and BBC, and that forced the state broadcaster to up its game.

“If you want to be a serious player competing with the likes of Sky and BBC etc, you have to do well with the big stories. You must report them well,” he added.

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